Future generations of goalkeepers in the Oceania region are set to be beneficiaries after the Oceania Football Confederation hosted a FIFA Goalkeeping Course for the first time.
The newly-established course, held in Auckland this week, is just the third such FIFA course to have taken place in the world. The programme, which is still in its pilot phase, was launched in Morocco in March, while the second course was held in South Africa last month.
This week's gathering at the OFC Academy brought together representatives from ten Oceania member associations and was run by FIFA instructor Alexander Vencel, with the assistance of FIFA instructor and head of the OFC technical department Patrick Jacquemet, as well as OFC instructor Laurent Heinis. The course doubled as the accreditation process for the OFC level 1 - Grassroots and Youth coaching licence and each of the participants will receive this qualification upon completing the course.
FIFA instructor Vencel is well placed to pass on goalkeeping tuition following a lengthy career as a professional goalkeeper. The former international represented Czechoslovakia twice, before then going on to make 19 appearances for Slovakia between 1994 and 1998.
Vencel made his debut for home town club Slovan Bratislava in 1988 and was bought by French team RC Strasbourg in 1994, helping them win the Coupe de la Ligue in 1997. He travelled to Australia ten years ago with the Czechoslovakia national squad but this is the first time he has been in this part of the world since then.
"I'm very happy that I can participate and help develop this programme for FIFA," he said. "In the past, there was nothing for the goalkeepers. The problem is that we don't have enough coaches and nobody knows how to train them properly. They just get sent off alone to do their own thing at training - that is not the way to produce good goalkeepers. It's a very specialised position and the goalkeeper has a very important role in modern football."
Vencel also expressed his delight with the progress made during the course and the enthusiasm shown by the participants. "It's been fantastic with all the participants very eager to learn. It's very important they get involved as it should not just be a monologue from me - it needs to be an exchange between myself and the participants.
"We need to know the difficulties in countries around the world - it is not the same in Oceania as it is in Europe or Africa. It's important to know the problems and what we can do to change them."
Jacquemet, a former professional goalkeeper in France said: "I think it's a priority for Oceania and the island countries to work on the goalkeepers because there was a need for improvement at the OFC U-17 and U-20 tournaments earlier this year," said Jacquemet.
"It is something OFC needs to address and I think it is time we started training the goalkeepers specifically. It is a very specific position and players need particular training and knowledge to play there correctly. I think the participants have enjoyed it because they are learning something new every minute."
Ngatohovua Elikana, who helps coach youth sides in the Cook Islands, is his country's representative and says the course has been more than worthwhile. "It's really informative and has given us a different perspective, especially in coaching younger ages like six to ten-year-olds. That's something we haven't been confident enough to do back home so we've spent more time with the senior kids, around 17 or 18," Elikana says.
"This course will give us the option to start teaching them at a younger age so we get a lot of that technical stuff out of the way. I can see in about four or five years we will start to see the fruits of this kind of course."